Friends of Refugees

A U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program Watchdog Group

Refugees in Indiana struggle – contractors want more government funding

Posted by Christopher Coen on July 19, 2010

The Indianapolis Star reports that refugees are not having an easy go of things in Indiana. Refugees, like US citizens, are having a hard time finding jobs, even with job training, and struggle to get by on limited government help. Local resettlement agencies are hoping that the Obama administration will come through with a lot of new government funding via the NSC’s “review” of the federal refugee program.

The U.S. government provides various forms of assistance to refugees — people who typically have escaped the ravages of war-torn nations where torture and political persecution are common — but it’s only available for up to eight months.

By then, it’s expected that refugees — even though many come with limited savings and often little or no English skills — will have found work and be self-sufficient.

…in this economy, many refugees…find it nearly impossible to get work, even with job training provided by the state.

Of the 1,862 refugees and political asylum grantees who resettled in Indiana in 2009, 49 percent became employed, with an average wage of less than $9 an hour.

That leaves many families relying heavily — or entirely — on short-term federal assistance.

…The Obama administration is conducting the first thorough review of the nation’s refugee resettlement system in three decades.

Major reforms are expected to be announced this summer and could include the extension of federal aid for eligible refugees past the current eight-month maximum.

Experts say the review is especially necessary now, given the struggling economy and shaky job market, and because it’s long overdue.

The current system remains virtually unchanged from when it was established by Congress in 1980, when the country was dealing with a wave of refugees from Southeast Asia. Now, the population is more diverse: Last year, nearly 75,000 refugees from more than 70 countries arrived in the United States.

“It’s a cookie-cutter approach to resettlement at this point,” said Carleen Miller, executive director of Exodus Refugee Immigration Inc., which, along with Catholic Charities Indianapolis, is one of two agencies that resettle newcomers in the Circle City.

“There’s not a lot of flexibility to really meet the unique needs of . . . the people that are coming,” Miller said. “It’s never been reviewed to see if it’s really meeting the needs of the current populations that are coming.”

…”The expectation of the United States government is that people are self-sufficient within six months, and that’s really difficult in this economy, plus it’s difficult for the groups that are coming right now.” here

I notice that all the “experts” this journalist refers to are contractors for the refugee program. Is it really any surprise they all want more free government money as the one and only solution to all the problems that plague the program? No one seems to think about how more public funds could drive out the few private funds remaining in the program.

Also, Miller’s statement that the US government expects that refugees be self-sufficient in six months is not correct. If Miller would check her State Department refugee contract she would see that they expect her organization to help 75% of refugees find jobs within six months – and the State Department has dropped that expectation entirely during this recession. Plus, why would the government offer eight months of Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) if they expected everyone to have a job within six months?

The article also mentions medical issues for refugees.

Other issues compound the problem. Because refugees increasingly are coming from war-torn nations such as Iraq, more have such medical issues as shrapnel wounds and amputations.

Those medical issues are yet another difficult hurdle many refugees must overcome in their efforts to find employment and become self-sufficient — and it’s an issue that often requires time.

“I think there are going to be more medical cases,” Miller said, “so this review couldn’t have come at a better time.”

I don’t understand this claim that refugees are increasingly coming from war-torn nations. Haven’t refugees always come from war-torn nations? I know that many non-refugees from the FSR (former-Soviet republics) given refugee status probably didn’t have war injuries, but most refugees have always been fleeing wars, as well as fleeing oppressive regimes that did not offer medical care for their people and that employed torture on opponents.

How will the NSC review address this issue? The national volags are supposedly required to have a plan for placing refugees in their network in places where they can receive proper medical treatment, although somehow refugees keep being placed in cities that do not have torture treatment programs. All the requirements in the world don’t matter if they are not enforced. Also, we already have social security disability payments. Many Americans resent that refugees arrive here and begin to receive social security payments when they haven’t been adding to the social security pot. If disability payments aren’t good enough, what else are the resettlement agencies proposing here?

We won’t know the answer to that until the NSC releases the results of its review because all the meetings have been behind closed doors and only involved the refugee contractors and government agencies. The public was not invited to take part. I hope the refugees aren’t noticing how we practice democracy in this program.

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